Not Wheelchair Accessible

November 6, 2017

in Academic Year 2017-2018, Andrew Gray, Czech Republic, Europe, Fall 2017

It’s now been a little more than a month since the last blog post, and I’ve become far more settled here in Prague. It’s been colder, but it’s not really “cold” yet; I’m sure all the Wisconsinites reading this understand exactly what I mean. While I don a t-shirt or perhaps a long-sleeve in the 50 degree weather, the locals all bundle up in thick coats and hoodies in preparation for the harsh mistress that is winter. Typical, huh? Join us this week for the trillionth episode of “Person From Wisconsin Tries to Act Tough About the Weather Because it’s ‘So Much Colder Back Home’” (we’ll work on the title, don’t worry). In all seriousness, though, the winters here in Prague are supposed to hit their worst around 30 degrees Farenheit, and that sounds like a dream compared to the January to which I’ll be coming home in Wisconsin. That being said, I’ve found myself spending a majority of my weekends here in Prague simply because of how great it is to be in Prague on any given day. In other words, while it sounds somewhat appealing to spend a few hundred slices of cheddar on plane tickets to Paris for the weekend, Prague just has so much to offer in such a scenically beautiful setting for incredibly reasonable prices; it’s hard to justify leaving. Still, I will do plenty of travelling before my time is up. I’m hoping to spend this coming weekend in a great city I haven’t seen yet like Berlin or Budapest, and I have already booked the flight to London in mid-November to explore another fantastic European site as well as snag a ticket to see one of my favorite bands, Queens of the Stone Age, play live.

Midterms are in full swing here in my program, with all exams and essays due either last week or this upcoming week. My classes don’t worry me too much, but having to put in the extra effort to be adequately prepared reminds one of doing the same things back at one’s home institution. I’m not complaining, but frantically preparing for exams is something that I’m ready to put behind me with graduation right around the corner; unless grad school is a viable option, which I would most assuredly consider, doing away with all this tedious note-taking and information-regurgitating will bring me great relief once I finally enter what all these humans around me call “the real world.” I just finished both exams for my two political science courses, and now all that is left are in-class exams for my Czech culture class, my Czech language class, and writing a brief essay for my European film class. Yes! Be jealous! I’m taking some very cool classes (at least I think so)!

Now to address the odd title of this blog post. Prague is a truly incredible city, don’t get me wrong. The sights, the architecture, the museums, the night life, the art, the music, the food, the environment, it’s all quite fantastic. However, one thing that sticks out after a bit of closer observation is how difficult it is to get around this city in a wheelchair. While it has become commonplace for institutions and businesses in the United States to be more easily wheelchair accessible, a place like the Czech Republic demonstrates a far less impressive standard. So many roads in the city are cobblestone, which is difficult on its own for wheels to rattle across. In addition to this, you have to overcome at least a few stairs to access a significant amount of shops and restaurants in the city, with at least one first step being conventional. Because of this, so many people that you see here in Prague with a mobility issue that in the U.S. would be able to manage relatively easy in a wheelchair or scooter ultimately have to use walking crutches to get anywhere. It’s not that wheelchairs are impossible to come by or afford, but it’s an overwhelmingly inconvenient mode of transportation around a city like this. Part of the blame goes to a series of stories I have heard from local Czech folk. Apparently, throughout the latter half of the 20th century during the communist regimes of Europe, it was part of the overarching mission to make society look as clean and healthy as possible. So, people with mental or physical disabilities would often be hidden from the public eye. In the meantime, modern societies have progressed in the Western world to accommodate a wide variety of disabled persons, and in the case of countries like the Czech Republic, the need to create greater accessibility for these people simply hasn’t been present in the same way. Seeing this has helped me ensure that I do not take for granted some of the benefits of living in the United States. It has its flaws – boy, does it have its flaws – but there are still a number of facets of everyday life where the U.S. sets an admirable example for others to follow.

I’m hoping to send in another update after my London trip with much more to tell about Prague culture as well as London’s wondrous attractions!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dale & Jane Gray November 9, 2017 at 7:20 pm

So happy to know how much you are enjoying Prague. Theresa sent me this link to your blog and we appreciate her thoughtfulness. I’m sure you know that they will be hosting Thanksgiving this year. We are looking forward to getting together with the rest of the family, but will surely miss you and David.
The deer hunters are getting excited for the season to open Nov. 18. Grandpa will go along for the fun of drinking beer, telling jokes and just being there. But he doesn’t plan to hunt anymore, at age 85!
We are both fine and will be anxious to see you again.
With Love,
Grandma Gray

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